Research Fellow, University of Melbourne

I am a behavioural ecologist with a particular interest in communication, and in individual differences in behaviour. So far, I have focused most of my research on birds, with Australian magpie-larks, banded wrens (denizens of the tropical dry forests of Costa Rica), and purple-crowned and superb fairy-wrens being particularly fascinating favourites!

Animal Communication
Communication underpins most social interactions, and birdsong is a particularly conspicuous form of animal communication that can readily be recorded, measured, and experimentally manipulated to answer interesting questions. Although males tend to be the focus of most research on birdsong, I have a particular interest in female song, and why females sing (or not). Several of my research projects have focused on species where males and females coordinate their songs, sometimes very precisely, to form vocal duets that play a role in mediating cooperation or conflict between breeding partners.

Animal Personality and Behavioural Plasticity
In my current research, I am pursuing a long-held interest in animal personalities. Why do individuals sometimes show consistent differences in their behaviour, suggesting constraints on behavioural plasticity? Do individuals differ in their ability to respond flexibly to changes in their environment, including their social environment? How does this influence their social interactions and communication? What are the implications of individual differences in behavioural flexibility for the persistence of animal populations in the face of rapid changes in their environments?

Experience

  • 2011–present
    Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, Australia
  • 2006–2010
    Postdoctoral Fellow, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany
  • 2002–2005
    Postdoctoral Associate, Cornell University, Lab of Ornithology, USA

Education

  • 2001 
    Australian National University, PhD